Former NBA Force and Detroit Pistons player Bob Lanier dies at age 73

NBA’s Gentle Giant passed away Tuesday

Bob Lanier, a former member of the Detroit Pistons and one of the top NBA players of the 1970s, has died at the age of 73. He passed gracefully after battling a short illness.

Bob Lanier, a former member of the Detroit Pistons and one of the top NBA players of the 1970s, has died at the age of 73.

He passed gracefully after battling a short illness.

Many Detroiters remember watching Lainer at COBO Hall. Lainer’s greatness was felt on and off the court across Metro Detroit.

Lanier was known for being massive. In the 70s, he weighed about 250 pounds and was 6-foot-10. He wore a size 22 shoe.

The Varisty Shop in Birmingham has a pair of Lanier’s shoes from the 70s.

“We have had these on display and often we’ll put these on the floor so kids can put their feet next to it. It’s mind-boggling how big that really is,” said Mark Secontine, owner of the shop.

The shop ordered a size 19, which was too small for “Big Bob,” who needed a pair a few sizes bigger.

“He was just a great guy. He came in a couple of times over the years after he was retired and he was just a gentle man.”

Read more: From The Vault: Bob Lanier, Dick Vitale host camp in Detroit in 1980

The former NBA player played with the Pistons for 10 years before behind traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Lanier played in the NBA for 14 seasons overall.

“As fierce and as dominant as Bob was on the court, he was equally kind and impactful in the community,” the Pistons said. “As an ambassador for both the Pistons organization and the NBA, he represented our league, our franchise and our fans with great passion and integrity. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Bob’s family and friends.”

Basketball carried throughout Lanier’s life, as he became an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors in 1995. The player retired from playing professionally in 1984.

Detroit Pistons center Bob Lanier rides a trolley outside Detroit's Cobo Hall after a news conference which announced that Lanier had signed a four-year pact making him the highest paid Piston ever, Sept. 19, 1977. The 6"11" star center has been with the club since he was drafted in the 1970. (AP Photo/Richard Sheinwald) (Associated Press)

Lanier won three awards in the 70s: National Basketball Association Award (1978), NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award (1974), and NBA All-Rookie Team (1971).

The professional basketball player has appeared three times in the Pistons all-time top 10 list for his scoring average in a season. According to the Detroit team, Lanier has led four postseason appearances with them.

Below is a statement made by the Detroit Pistons on May 11.

On Behalf of Pistons Owner Tom Gores and the Detroit Pistons: “The Detroit Pistons organization is deeply saddened by the passing Bob Lanier, a true legend who meant so much to the city of Detroit and to generations of Pistons fans. As fierce and as dominant as Bob was on the court, he was equally kind and impactful in the community. As an ambassador for both the Pistons organization and the NBA, he represented our league, our franchise and our fans with great passion and integrity. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Bob’s family and friends.”

Former Pistons player, teammate and Hall of Famer Dave Bing: "It was unfortunate to hear of Bob's passing yesterday. I have many great memories of Bob, both as a teammate and as a friend. I was lucky to have played with him as a member of the Pistons and to have shared a long-lasting friendship. Bob will be greatly missed."

Former Pistons player and Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas: “All of us who love the game of basketball are hurting with the loss of Bob Lanier. He was one of the greatest centers to play the game and one of the toughest and fiercest competitors. Just as he impacted the game on the court, Bob was one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. His class and caring for others set a great example for so many to follow. I’m grateful for his friendship and mentorship as I led the Pistons as a player and later followed his footsteps as president of the Players’ Association.”

Former Pistons player and head coach Ray Scott: “My friend, Bob, was an extraordinary talent who led the Pistons to playoff status. He shared his success with his community. He will never be forgotten.”

Former Pistons player and radio analyst Rick Mahorn: “Big Bob was a fierce competitor and one of the greatest big men to play the game of basketball, but he was an even better human being. He was always ready to share his knowledge of the game and life and had a lasting impact on many lives and communities. He and Wes Unseld, who we also lost, were like father figures to me. It didn’t matter if I was still playing or when I retired, I was still scared and intimidated whenever I saw him, but it was all out of respect and love. Our world, and especially the basketball world, lost a great one. He will surely be missed.”

Detroit Pistons broadcaster George Blaha: “The Pistons and the NBA have lost a treasured member of our family. Bob was one of the game’s all-time greatest big men with his strength, his touch, his toughness, and his feel for the game. He was a nightmare for the opposition. It was a privilege to broadcast his games, spend time with him and to follow his illustrious career as a multi-time all-star, president of the players association and as a tireless ambassador for our league’s community outreach programs. He welcomed me to the Pistons family in my first year as a broadcaster and was a true friend. Rest in peace Bob, we’ll all miss him very much.”

Detroit Pistons

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